Ten Teams That Could Be Involved in an Upset This March
March is notorious for being a month of upsets in college basketball year in and year out. But this year includes an array of teams that could on either side of one of the NCAA Tournament's most exciting moments. There are a few notable mid-majors and power conference schools that are particularly likely to be involved in a big tournament upset.
Five Underdogs Who Could Pull off an Upset
No. 18 St. Mary's (Automatic Bid: West Coast Conference)
After winning the West Coast Conference regular season and postseason titles, more and more people are beginning to give the Gaels some well-earned chatter. Matthew Dellavedova and Rob Jones have led St. Mary's all year, and both have the potential to light teams up in the NCAA Tournament. They are projected to be a six or seven seed in this year's tournament, meaning that they would have a favorable opportunity to get out of the first round and set up a potential upset over a two or three seed in the second round. They have more of a chance to make a Sweet Sixteen run as a six seed, simply because of the drop off this year from two to three, as well as because of the matchup problems they would present against the potential three seeds. Dellavedova led St. Mary's to the Sweet Sixteen a few years ago, and Rob Jones is a player that a lot of people will be talking about after the tournament. It will take some magic to get the Gaels to the second weekend, but when has March been short on magic?
Virginia Commonwealth (Automatic Bid: Colonial Athletic Association)
VCU is obviously remembered for their Final Four run last season, but not many people have been talking about Shaka Smart's 2012 team. They are in the tournament solely because they won the CAA title game over Drexel, but they made the list because they have one thing the other teams on this list do not: tournament experience. Although they did lose leaders Jamie Skeen and Joey Rodriguez, there are still contributors from last year's team that could bring about another run. Brad Burgess and Troy Daniels contributed to pull off the mini-upset of Drexel, and VCU's athleticism could also allow them to outplay a higher seed in the first round. This team is not built as well as it was in 2011, but their experience lends itself to a potential upset.
Detroit (Automatic Bid: Horizon League)
Most people in Detroit were expecting Ray McCallum, Jr.'s team to be a lot more impressive this year. Fortunately for their fans, a run in the Horizon League Tournament has put the team back in the big dance. They are projected to be a 14 or 15 seed, which would put them in a tough situation no matter who they play. But the Titans are built to hang with a lot of the projected two and three seeds in this year's field. They have a very athletic and underrated point guard in McCallum, and an overpowering big guy in Eli Holman. Between those two and some athletic role players, the team has the potential to pull off the rarely seen upset of a two seed if McCallum has the tremendous performance he is capable of.
Drexel (Potential At-Large Bid, Colonial Athletic Conference)
Drexel is firmly on the bubble after losing to VCU in the CAA championship, but if the Dragons do get a bid, they could cause some problems as a 12 or 13 seed. They would most likely be put in a play-in game if they make the NCAA Tournament, but this team won 25 straight games before losing to VCU this week. Drexel has quite a bit in common with the Murray State team that beat Vanderbilt in 2010. They are a complete, strong mid-major team that could matchup favorably with a lot of four seed in this year's field, assuming they receive an at-large bid. Frantz Massenat is a very good guard, and is complemented nicely by forward Samme Givens. Drexel deserves a bid, and if they get one, the Dragons could be another 13 seed to make noise in the first round this year.
New Mexico (Automatic Bid or At-Large Bid, Mountain West Conference)
Like St. Mary's, New Mexico's name has been thrown around a decent amount, but they would still be considered a surprise upset if they were to knock off a higher seed this year. They are projected to be about a seven seed, which means they may face a tough Big East opponent in the first round like West Virginia or Connecticut. If they make it to the second round, they could match up well with some of the projected two seeds. Drew Gordon is a UCLA transfer and a very good player. He can help the Lobos contend with players on teams like Duke and Michigan State, both possible two seeds. The Lobos are in the top-60 in the four major statistical categories in the NCAA, including being the ninth best team in assists. Steve Alford has built a very fundamentally sound basketball team with a lot of athleticism, two things that will allow them to hang with teams on the first weekend. Alford's team has the potential to pull a second round upset and make the Sweet Sixteen.
Five Top Teams Who Could Get Knocked off Early
No. 19 Florida (Automatic Bid or At-Large Bid, Southeastern Conference)
The Gators are 2-4 against ranked opponents this season, and both of their wins were against teams (Texas A&M and Mississippi State) who are no longer ranked. They also have bad losses against Rutgers and Tennessee twice. The point is that their résumé is rather unimpressive for a ranked team, and the evidence points to Florida being a big name to fall early in the NCAA Tournament. The Gators lack a strong bench and at teams have struggled on the road, which does not bode well for neutral site games. If they find themselves in the wrong place and the wrong time, Billy Donovan's team could easily find themselves headed home early.
No. 11 Baylor (Automatic Bid or At-Large Bid, Big XII Conference)
Baylor has looked like a national championship contender at times this season, but they also have shown the potential to be an early upset victim as well. Scott Drew and the rest of the coaching staff have been waiting for sophomore forward Perry Jones III to play up to his potential on a consistent basis for two years now, and while Jones has shown firepower and athletic ability, he struggled mightily in Baylor's losses. The team has had to rely on Pierre Jackson too often this season, and even in a game where he scored 35 points, Baylor still fell to Iowa State. Without strong play from Jones, Baylor is not good enough to make it out of the first weekend, and he's been inconsistent enough to create a lot of doubts.
No. 13 Michigan (Automatic Bid or At-Large Bid, Big Ten Conference)
Like Baylor, this team could be a Final Four contender. But the Wolverines have lacked an inside presence all season, and that could be their downfall in the wrong matchup. While Michigan still has the Big Ten Tournament to look for other ways to score than outside shooting, they have played nearly the whole season struggling to figure out a way to get points in the paint. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. have led the team all year, and Zack Novak and Evan Smotrycz have contributed from long range, but when the Wolverines don't shoot well, the results are ugly. Their 75-59 loss to Iowa is a blueprint for this kind of game: Michigan shot 38.5 percent from the field and just 25.8 percent from three. When they shoot well, they can beat any team in the country. But if John Beilein's team has an off day shooting at the wrong time, Michigan may be an upset victim.
Vanderbilt (Automatic Bid or At-Large Bid, Southeastern Conference)
Vanderbilt has underachieved all season long, losing several games against inferior opponents and making them an easy choice for this list. Vandy has lost to a lower seed in each of the past three NCAA tournaments, and this year could easily be the fourth. As a projected six or seven seed, they could be looking at a power conference school in the first round (like Washington or West Virginia). A team that matches up well with Vanderbilt could take the Commodores out of their comfort zone when shooting the ball. If they are forced to take bad shots, Vanderbilt's season will look similar to the last three.
Louisville (Automatic Bid or At-Large Bid, Big East Conference)
Louisville does not necessarily have a "bad" loss this season, but there have been a few games in which they have played particularly poorly. The problem for Rick Pitino's squad is that they lack a pure scoring threat who can take over when the team is struggling to score. Kyle Kuric and Russ Smith lead the team in shooting, but only average 12.9 and 11.9 points, respectively. If the Cardinals get in an early hole in an early round game, they will need shooting to get them back in the game, which is something they just don't have. Kuric, Smith and Peyton Siva's abilities to score will determine how late or how early Louisville gets knocked out in this year's tournament.
Mike Esse is a freshman majoring in Broadcast Journalism and is a ComRadio Sports Director. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Mike Esse is a senior from Grosse Pointe, Mich., majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in business. He is a reporter for the Centre County report with a primary focus in sports. Additionally, he serves as the Student General Manager for ComRadio as well as being a producer, talk show personality and play-by-play voice.
Mike also is a staff writer for gopsusports.com where he covers Penn State women’s basketball and baseball and works for Penn State Athletics in video production. He has completed internships with MLB Advanced Media in Summer 2014 and Westwood One Sports in summer 2013.